Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Here's a thought.  Not sure how to crystalize this into practice.

Every so often, you see the hand where two possible strains offer reasonable trumps.  For instance, maybe you find out that you have a minor fit and a major fit.  Maybe 1S-P-2C-P-3C-P-3S as the start.

In this situation, a recurring theme is that of deciding ultimate strain in a potential slam.  For example, if Responder has Kxx in spades, and Opener has Axxxx, perhaps a spade can be pitched from the short side in a club contract, allowing the spade suit to be played for no losers, if the contract is 6C.  Or, maybe 6C simply reduces the risk from a 4-1 spade stack.  What's worse is if we only have the spade ace and are missing both King and Queen, where 6C might be able to handle that.

Alternatively, however, 6C might not be as good for the same reason, and maybe a club pitch or two might help 6S to make.

The key to these situations is in the Queens, primarily, and secondarily in the Kings.  So, what sometimes happens is that you use RKCB in spades, find out perhaps the bad news, and then bid 6C (and hope that partner takes this as a placement of contract and not a grand try).

It seems to me that there might be an alternative to consider.

Let's take the auction out a bit, in general terms.  1S-P-2C-P-3C-P-3S start.  Cues and seriousness and the like end us at the point of, say, someone bidding 4H as Last Train or as a cue.  Whatever.  Now is the witching hour.

Suppose, also, that something about the "cues and seriousness and the like" suggests or proves that Exclusion RKCB is not an option.  So, at this point, you might end up in a situation with an "ask or answer" structure.

What is that, you ask?  Well, simply put, 4NT is RKCB, but anything above 4NT is an answer to an "assumed 4NT" from partner.  Hence, if partner bids 4H Last Train (spades agreed), I would bid 4NT to ask questions, or I could bid 5H to instead answer, "Two without."  I can ASK or ANSWER.

So, why "ask or answer?"  I mean, which do you elect to do?  I typically, in these situations (where partner and I have agreed to do this) answer with primes but ask with body.

There might be a slightly better way to handle this in the two-fits scenario.  Or, a more precise rule. 

If I am looking at the spade Queen, I am not as concerned about the "which strain" question.  If I am not looking at the spade Queen, though, I can ask and place the contract in clubs if I have the club Queen.  But, what if I have neither (and cuebidding has not answered this question, yet)?

Or, what if some Queen is unknown, but important?  In some auctions, for instance, the spade queen might be known, but not the club Queen, because no cue was available to show that card.  Finding that card later might be quite a task.

Here, then, is the thought.  One might decide that you ask with the key unshown key Queen but answer without the key Queen.  The side-suit, alternative-strain Queen is the default "key Queen."  The part about asking with the key Queen is tactical, as captaincy is with the person looking at the key Queen.  The part about answering without the key Queen is definitional, as captaincy is transferred to the person who may or may not be looking at the key Queen but now knows the answer as to the partnership holding by virtue of the definition.

I am still not sure how this would develop as a theory, as far as designation of the key Queen, handling a two-queens scenario, and the like.  But, I think there is something to think about here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

LDBC Newsletter Links

The local bridge club where my wife and I play on Thursday nights has a Newsletter, yours truly as the "Editor."  The pdf's of the monthly newsletters are now available at, in case anyone is interested.  a lot of folks like "the Bickersons on Bridge," which is intended to have a touch of self-depricating humor.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fourth Seat Openings

It looks like I have finally convinced my 2/1 partner to venture into the world of Fourth Seat Intermediates!!!

The fourth-seat weak two is such a bizarre bid, IMO.  I have seen "treatments" that raise the weak two to a minimal opening, or even a "tweener" opening, always with length in the major.  It seems to make a lot more sense to solve a real problem or two.

For Philadelphia, it looks like we will be incorporating a fourth-seat 2H and 2S opening showing five of the indicated major, 4-5 of either minor, and intermediate strength (about 14-15 plus or minus).  We considered the same shape but weaker (11-12 plus or minus), as well.  Either way, this takes some stress off of other auctions.

Our response structure is to have 2NT as an asking bid with values (with garbage, 3C is pass-or-correct).  After 2NT, Opener bids the minor with any minimum or any 5-4 (minimum shape).  These calls in 3/4 of the occurrences allow a next-up "game last train" to see if partner has the maximum 5-4, and Opener in that instance can show the shortness with the max 5-4.  The exception is the heart-diamond hand, in which case Opener can treat the max 5-4 as a max 5-5 if appropriate.

With maximum 5-5 hands, Opener shows the minor and the shortness, flagging the minor with shortness in the other minor (3H for clubs, 3S for diamonds) or jumping in the minor (4C/4D) with shortness in the other major.  3NT is allowed, with a "gambling" hand -- stuff in the short suits, maximal, player.

Unfortunately, the ACBL does not allow THAT treatment in your average game, so this is limited for us to Philadelphia (or some other appropriate event).  But, for the everyday game, this is allowed if the second suit is known, perhaps always clubs.  That would help with a Gazilli-like treatment.

Why the ACBL bars such a natural bid, simply a treatment, is a mystery.  Perhaps it just sounds too European?  We North Americans just cannot apparently handle any European exotic bids, you see.  How canape snuck in is a good question, though.  We do eat a lot, and someone at Headquarters might have been confused.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Clubs as Length or Shortness

Themes seem to arise in bidding.  An odd one resurfaced for me recently -- bidding 3C as "length or shortness."

One example I have played is when partner raises my 1D opening.  We have played that 3C in this sequence shows "length or shortness."


Responder then bids 3D to ask for clarification:

3H = length, this shortness
3S = length, this shortness
3NT = shortness in clubs

We are trying out a new spot for this, after transfers.



In these situations, however, Opener has two asking bids.  Bidding Responder's major asks, but agrees the major as trumps.  Bidding 3D also asks, suggesting clubs as trumps.  Bidding the other major "asks" in a way, suggesting a 5-3 strain in that other major.

Maybe you have spots where 3C as "length or shortness" makes sense?